How Groundswell is adapting to the COVID-19 crisis


Dear Groundswell Fund & Groundswell Action Fund Community,

Our team is here and standing strong with our grantees as they play indispensable roles in their communities during this crisis.

COVID-19 has pulled back the curtain on so much that is wrong in our society. For the Groundswell community, what is behind the curtain is not new; our grantee partners have been working to transform it for decades. For millions of people, however, the current crisis has exposed the truth about this country’s cruel and punishing systems.

It is now clear what it means, not just to individuals, but also to our collective health and survival, that so many of us have no or inadequate medical insurance, paid sick leave, or shelter. As millions are laid-off and the federal government bails out corporations instead of people, the impact of the destruction of unions, labor protections, and the social safety net are apparent.

Those who didn’t see caregiving and education as skilled, essential, and severely undervalued professions are registering this now, as they struggle to care for and educate their children while also holding down a virtual job. As the right seizes upon this moment to further limit access to safe abortion, birthing care, fertility and gender transition-related care, many more are experiencing the barriers that arise when the heteronormative patriarchy determines what is and is not “essential care.”

The longstanding shortage of midwives and doulas — the result of decades of attacks on this profession from the medical establishment — is now widely visible as large numbers of pregnant people seek safe places to birth outside of the COVID hotspots that hospitals have become. The digital divide is obvious as schools and jobs attempt to go virtual and individuals and families with limited or no access to technology find themselves digitally stranded. Asian Americans face attacks and violence as this Administration once again uses race, xenophobia, and fear as a political strategy, showing how white supremacy remains at the rotten core of too many of our institutions. Finally, as millions feel the mental and emotional stress of being confined to our homes, we feel a fraction of what the more than two million incarcerated people, many of them enduring years of solitary confinement, experience every day.

The worst, most rotten parts of our society have been thrust into the light. Only the best and healthiest parts of our society will see us through in this moment and into a future of liberation. As racial justice activist Grace Lee Boggs once wrote: “The only way to survive is by taking care of one another.” A shift from an individual to a collective mindset can take us through the COVID-19 crisis and could guide our way through the even larger crisis of climate change, which, if not addressed will make COVID-19 look like a cake walk. The earth is calling for a shift. We must act to fundamentally transform our way of being. Distraction and denial must be replaced with mindfulness and truth; greed and excess with generosity and moderation; an unhealthy focus on productivity and consumption with one that puts the well-being of people and the planet first.

In order to address this crisis, and ensure that our grantee community emerges from it stronger and more resilient, Groundswell is making some significant changes, both external and internal.

After surveying grantees to better understand their needs at this moment, we have decided to:

  • Dramatically increase resources and capacity-building support (including training, coaching, and access to tech) to enable our grantees to pivot their in-person, door-to-door voter engagement, census outreach, and organizing campaigns to digital. It is more vital than ever that our grantees have the resources needed to make sure our communities are counted in this Census and participate in the upcoming election.
  • Waive all written proposal requirements for eligible organizations and carry out renewal processes with current grantees via phone calls.
  • Be flexible with deadlines. The last thing grantees should be worried about now is paperwork for funders.
  • Increase dollars flowing through our Rapid Response Funds and expand our criteria to support the timely pivot of organizing and voter engagement campaigns from in-person to digital strategies, and to enable organizing groups to participate in mutual aid for their members and communities.
  • Increase dollars moving through our Birth Justice Fund to community-based midwifery and doula practices that are enabling pregnant people to birth safely outside of hospitals, which are hot spots for COVID-19.
  • Support strategy conversations among grantees if they request us to do so.

Groundswell has been a virtual organization for over three years and we are well-positioned to continue operating as such. After assessing the needs of our own staff, we have made a series of changes in Groundswell’s personnel policies that prioritize their health and wellbeing during this period. Specifically, we have:

  • Enabled staff members who are caring for children, elders, and/or people with disabilities to drop down to half time (or less) if needed, with no reduction in pay.
  • Provided each member of our team with a day off for preparation and a stipend to purchase groceries and supplies.
  • Offered stipends to cover the ongoing cost of in-home childcare for those who have that option.
  • Encouraged staff to utilize their flex time to take time and space when they need it, and to be flexible with each other as we all try to figure out how to live in this new reality.
  • Begun work within each of our departments to scale back 2020 work plans, both to create space to respond to this crisis and its many impacts as they continue to change in our communities, and to recognize that our pace must slow to enable our staff to meet the needs of their own and their family’s mental and physical health.
  • Started developing contingency plans for work coverage for all staff positions should members of our team become ill or be called on to care for sick family members.
  • Postponed the scheduled April/May launch of our 2020–2025 c3 and c4 Blueprints until the pandemic has passed.

COVID-19 is a wakeup call for all of us to address the deep problems and injustices that underlie our economy, our political system, and our communities. Groundswell’s grantees have long understood what is wrong and have led the struggle for justice and transformation. Today, we need their leadership more than ever.

As we stand with you and every member of Groundswell’s vibrant community in the bigger fight for the future of our planet, we lift up the words of our wise movement comrade Maria Poblet of Grassroots Policy Project:

don’t let them scare you’ve seen bigger giants fall why not this one, now

In Solidarity,

The Groundswell Team